Film Review: Dune: Part One (2021)

Release Date: September 3rd, 2021 (Venice Film Festival)
Directed by: Denis Villeneuve
Written by: Jon Spaihts, Denis Villeneuve, Eric Roth
Based on: Dune by Frank Herbert
Music by: Hans Zimmer
Cast: Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgård, Dave Bautista, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Zendaya, Chang Chen, Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Charlotte Rampling, Jason Momoa, Javier Bardem, David Dastmalchian

Villeneuve Films, Legendary Entertainment, Warner Bros., 155 Minutes

Review:

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” – Lady Jessica Atreides

Well, the long-awaited Dune movie by Denis Villeneuve is finally here and while I tried to go into it without any expectations, I am a pretty big fan of the original novels by Frank Herbert and am one of the weirdos that likes the 1984 David Lynch adaptation while also enjoying those two Sci-Fi Channel miniseries that adapted the first three books back around the turn of the new millennium.

It’s hard to review this, however, because it is just one half of the story and it doesn’t even end at a logical point, the film just decides to stop and roll its credits. There are some logical points in the book that would’ve been much better areas to pause the film.

For those who haven’t read the book, which is most people in 2021, this will probably confuse them or piss them off. Especially, since a follow up wasn’t guaranteed. At the time of me writing this, though, the sequel was just greenlit.

So up to the point where the film just stops, I’d have to consider this the best adaptation of the book so far. Granted, it could still fall apart in the second half, which hopefully we don’t have to wait four years for.

The film, as should be expected with Villeneuve at the helm, is a visual masterpiece. However, also with Villeneuve at the helm, Dune starts to suffer, as the initial awe of the visuals starts to wear off and normalize. The movie is slow. That’s not to say that nothing happens but like Blade Runner 2049, it just takes a long time to get there. With this being nearly two and a half hours and just half the plot, I feel like this whole story could’ve been told well over three-to-four hours if it moved at a brisker pace.

As far as the acting goes, it was all good. There really wasn’t a weak link in this chain but it was also hard really getting a grasp on whether or not Zendaya was going to be able to hang, as she only shows up in the last ten minutes of the movie, apart from appearing in Paul Atreides’ dreams.

Timothée Chalamet made a solid Paul, though. I also really liked Rebecca Ferguson and Oscar Isaac. Josh Brolin and Javier Bardem both had great presence and Jason Momoa actually impressed me quite a bit, as Duncan Idaho, one of my favorite characters from the book.

Beyond that, Stellan Skarsgård completely owned the role of Baron Vladimir Harkonnen. Dave Bautista was also intimidating as hell as the Beast Rabban with one of my favorite modern character actors, David Dastmalchian, doing a f’n superb job as the Harkonnen mentat, Piter De Vries. Dastmalchian was in good company with Brad Dourif playing the role in the 1984 film but he still made the role his own, in this film, and really shined through in a unique way.

I wasn’t a big fan of the Hans Zimmer score and honestly, you barely even notice it. It’s just noise and atmosphere and the movie lacks any real themes like the 1984 version, which had incredible music.

Also, as visually impressive as this is, when I read the books, I’m pretty sure my mind is still going to visualize the David Lynch style. It’s just burnt into my memory, at this point. I can’t really say which is better, overall, because of my nostalgic love of the visuals and design of the original film but this one still looks great and really utilizes modern special effects technology exceptionally well. It greatly benefits in that regard, where David Lynch only had practical effects and physical sets to work with.

All in all, this was a good adaptation, more than anything. It’s hard to say how it will play as a total body of work, once the second half is released, but I now have fairly high hopes for the completed picture. Granted, I assume that one will also be pretty slow.

Rating: 7.5/10